By Claire Christensen
The rise of social media has transformed the way politicians communicate with Americans at a scale that has not been seen since the development of radio and television. Similar to the 2016 election, President Trump’s massive social media presence will certainly be an advantage in 2020, especially in light of the fact that traditional campaign tactics such as rallies and public appearances have been put on hold during the China virus pandemic.
President Trump is far better positioned than Joe Biden to utilize social media to his advantage and generate organic interest in policy areas which can be mobilized to increase campaign momentum. But simply having a social media account isn’t enough to be effective in doing this.
In a modern, digital world populated with infinite amounts of shared information, in order to cut through the noise, connect with followers, and make a noteworthy public impression, social media influencers – or in this case, politicians – must have a really big presence and be unquestionably authentic.
Leading up to the 2016 election, President Trump built up a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook that eclipsed rival Hillary Clinton. Throughout his presidency, President Trump has continued to expand upon this digital following and has augmented his online presence, making him the most accessible president in history.
By looking at the number of followers across social media platforms that Trump has amassed compared to Biden, it’s clear just how large of a digital presence President Trump has obtained. While Trump has 79.5 million followers on Twitter, 27.5 million Facebook page likes, and 19.5 million followers on Instagram, Biden only has 5.3 million followers, 1.8 million page likes, and 2 million followers respectively. Furthermore, a Google trends analysis from April 8 (the day that Sanders dropped out of the presidential race) through May 4 revealed that on average, online search interest was 4.5 times higher for President Trump than Joe Biden.
Second, it is clear, especially on Twitter, that President Trump uses social media to candidly communicate with the American people, though at times the president’s use of Twitter has created public backlash. Overall however, it has resulted in greater transparency and public involvement by allowing the American people to see and weigh in on what the president is thinking, where the policy priorities are, and how situations are evolving in real time.
This is particularly important considering a significant percentage of Americans distrust or disapprove of the media. A Gallup poll conducted in September 2019 found that only 41 percent of Americans trust the mass media a “great deal” or a “fair amount.” Broken down by political party, Gallup concluded that only 15 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Independents view the mass media as trustworthy.
Moreover, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has not restored any sense of Americans’ favorability of the news media. A more recent Gallup poll from March 2020 compared the levels of approval of nine different US leaders’ and institutions’ handling of the coronavirus – the news media received the highest disapproval ratings. Fifty-five percent of Americans disapproved of the news media’s response to the pandemic while 60 percent of Americans approved of President Trump’s response.
Tweets and posts alone won’t win the November election for President Trump. Rather, just as social media platforms were used to highlight the administration’s successes, they will now serve as megaphones to bring attention to the issues, initiatives, and accomplishments that concern Americans as President Trump leads us through the greatest global crisis since World War II.
President Trump’s record of putting Americans first, growing the economy, and ensuring national security speaks for itself, but his widespread and candid social media presence is an essential tool to amplify these positions and communicate how he is getting our country back on track.
Going into an election that will be different from those in recent memory, cutting through the noise and exhibiting transparent leadership will be important components of a winning campaign strategy. President Trump’s social media gives him a significant advantage over Joe Biden in this regard.
Claire Christensen has worked with me at Gingrich360 for the last three years helping with research on China, national security, and international affairs issues. She is the co-author of my book Trump vs. China: Facing America’s Greatest Threat. – Newt